The One Ingredient That Makes All Pantry Staples Taste Better—From Boxed Brownies to Canned Soup
You'll never look at this ingredient the same.
As a Southerner, I’ll shamefully admit that butter is my favorite condiment, followed by Duke’s Mayonnaise. Please don’t @ me, especially if you didn’t grow up in the South. A little butter and salt in a pot of canned green peas. Butter on a slice of white bread. Butter on my cheesy grits, fresh out of the Quaker packet. Okay, you get my drift. Butter makes everything taste that much better but as of late, I’ve been using olive oil a lot more.
In February, I visited my then-Instagram friend (now a friend in real life!), Caroline Corvaglia, owner of Della Pace—A.K.A. the most beautiful Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Bolgheri, a picturesque village in Tuscany. We ate, we drank, we laughed, we wandered, and not once did I see butter—nor did I really miss it (!). “Butter just isn't a part of life here,” she tells me. “Olive oil is the king of fats in Italy.” It should be know that Caroline is originally from the South, in the United States, so hear me out when I say that she does, in fact, miss butter—and all the boxed delights that aren’t prevalent in Italy. Her Italian husband is anti-butter so she’s quickly learned to live without since moving abroad. “I only buy it once a year for my annual Thanksgiving day extravaganza,” Corvaglia says.
When my friends and family come to visit from the states they always bring me the best boxed food staples that you just can't live without,” she says. “So along with White Claw Hard Seltzer and Doritos, there are always boxes of brownies, mac and cheese, and funfetti cake in the mix.” Having to improvise, Corvaglia learned how to enhance existing boxed and canned foods with her fruity, fragrant, cold pressed EVOO.
From boxed boxed mac and cheese with that powdered mix we all know and love to Funfetti cake mix, check out these 7 ways to dial up your pantry goods with a little help from EVOO.
Boxed Mac and Cheese
Corvaglia’s first trade out was mac and cheese—in specific, instant mac and cheese in the box, with powdered cheese mix. “Our house is generally dairy-free in totality so I reserve some of the starchy pasta water in place of the milk and use EVOO instead of the butter,” she says. “This works great and is delicious in both Kraft and Annie’s—my personal fave being Annie's white cheddar.” The olive oil makes it taste more “fresh and light instead of heavy and thick,” notes Corvaglia. That said, don’t try it with something like Velveeta Shells & Cheese. The creamy, liquid cheese sauce plus EVOO is too overpowering.
Next up, brownie mix—a staple in most everyone’s pantry, because there’s always a time and a place for boxed brownies. Corvaglia uses EVOO in place of vegetable oil, “and let me tell you, It’s great,” she proclaims. “The high-quality, fresh olive oil elevates the chocolate flavor so, so much,” she says. “I seriously felt like a professional baker and my husband talks about these boxed brownies all the time,” she adds. And don’t forget to a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt on top for a finishing touch.
Pillsbury’s Funfetti cake mix has been around for over three decades. (It launched in1989, for anyone who cares!). To give it an upgrade, replace vegetable oil with EVOO. “The texture is nearly the same except maybe slightly less fluffy, with more of a crumb,” Corvaglia says. The olive oil makes the cake’s crust almost too dreamy to put icing on, though, she notes.
The Funfetti hack led her to think about adding EVOO to boxed cornbread mix for a similar effect, but she’s planning to wait for her next Southern visitor to test it out.
Have you witnessed the deliciousness of olive oil gelato at OTTO Enoteca Pizzeria in New York City? What about Ashley Christensen’s vanilla soft serve with EVOO and Outer Banks SeaSalt at Poole’side Pies? If not, you’re missing out. But luckily you can replicate this at home very easily, as in pull out a regular tub of vanilla ice cream from the freezer and drizzle said ice cream with olive oil. The better the olive oil, the better the taste. “The fresh grassiness of the EVOO really brightens the ice cream,” says Corvaglia.”A good sea salt on the olive oil drizzle makes it heaven,” she adds. Pro tip: Take it next-level with a drizzle of thick, creamy Modena balsamic.
Canned and Boxed Soups
Most soups and meats are finished with olive oil on top,” says Corvaglia, and it’s a simple way to amp up any boxed or canned soup if you don’t have time to make soup from scratch on the stovetop. “A glug of olive oil adds a rich fattiness to make the soup heartier,” she adds. Finish with a squirt of fresh lemon or lime juice to brighten it.
Take oatmeal a little further over to the savory side with a little extra-virgin olive oil. Corvaglia notes that, for her, it’s more of a health ritual than anything. “The oil adds antioxidants that are a great addition to your morning digestion,” she says.
“I have legit changed every single recipe calling for butter to EVOO, and while it is different, it is absolutely delicious and also way better for you,” she adds. Instead of dousing your popcorn in loads of butter, use olive oil and sprinkle a little Old Bay Seasoning on top for a slight kick.